Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympics with Chinese Characteristics

An afternoon out at the Olympic Green was in some ways a pretty typical experience that would be recognizable to anyone who has been to a major concert or sporting event. We could have been in Atlanta, Sydney, or Athens. Hordes of people, flowers planted everywhere, ticket scalpers (who, by the way, were hawking triathlon tickets for RMB1500 each...that's over $200 a ticket...are you crazy!?...even assuming I would negotiate away half that price, it is still no bargain...I guess that's another similarity with Games past...).

There are some Chinese characteristics, though, that not even the corporate feel of the Olympics can eradicate completely.

A road is meant for walking. Throughout China, cars and bikes are parked on sidewalks and people walk in the road. Why should the Olympic Green be any different? We had great fun joining the crowd and scampering up an embankment, so we could jump onto the street and get a better look at the Bird's Nest. The security guards were hopelessly outmatched (and probably didn't really want to stop anyone anyways).

Let's take a picture of the waiguoren. Some people were subtle, trying to take our picture or video us without us noticing. Others were obviously trying to get up the courage to approach us. And then there were those who knew enough English to make an inquiry...and then get surprised by our responses in Chinese! These were the real Olympic moments for us...the group pictures where everyone (including us!) got caught up in exchanges that transcended culture and competition.



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